Differential genetic variation in adaptive strategies to a common environmental signal in Arabidopsis accessions: phytochrome-mediated shade avoidance


Professor Harry Smith, Division of Plant Science, University of Nottingham, Sutton Bonington Campus, Loughborough, LE12 5 RD, UK. Fax: + 44 (0) 150 9856822; E-mail: harry.smith@nottingham.ac.uk


Shade avoidance is a syndrome of plastic responses to light signals encountered in crowded plant communities and is a crucial component of competitive strategy in higher plants. The responses are mediated via signal perception by specific members of the phytochrome family of photoreceptors, which detect the relative proportions of red (R) and far-red (FR) radiation within dense communities. We analysed two aspects of shade avoidance, the acceleration of flowering and the enhancement of elongation growth, displayed by more than 100 accessions of Arabidopsis thaliana (Heyn.) in response to FR-proximity signals. Both traits showed wide variation between accessions, which was unrelated to the latitude of the location of original collection. Flowering acceleration is a major feature of shade avoidance in rosette plants such as Arabidopsis, and most accessions showed dramatic responses, but several were identified as being recalcitrant to the proximity signal. These accessions are likely to be informative in the analysis of quantitative variation in shade avoidance. Hypocotyl elongation, treated here as an indicator of elongation growth responses, also varied widely amongst accessions. The variations in flowering acceleration and elongation were not correlated, indicating that microevolution in the downstream pathways from signal perception has occurred separately.